Conservative Groups Rallying Against Call for Constitutional Convention

Oh, the power of citizen involvement and emails.

Utah House members were flooded Wednesday with emails from conservative groups, like the Utah Eagle Forum, against two House resolutions that would call for a convention of the states to amend the U.S. Constitution.

HJR7 by Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber, and HJR14 by Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, would both put Utah officially on the record of calling for such an Article 5 convention of the states.

HJR7 says the only topic a Utah delegation could consider or vote on in such a convention of the states would be a balanced budget amendment.

Ivory’s HJR14 says any Utah delegation could only participate in proposed amendments for “fiscal restraint” of the federal government (like a balanced budget amendment), “limit the power” of the federal government; and provide term limits for “federal officers,” including members of Congress.

Ivory said it is a bit odd for a bill he’s sponsoring is being strongly opposed by conservative groups, like the Utah Eagle Forum, since normally they may likely support what he does.

“Every day I get up and look at the (U.S.) Constitution, and every day Article 5 is there,” said Ivory.

That means a convention of the states, called to amend the U.S. Constitution when Congress refuses to act – like on a balanced budget – is part of the Constitution, and so can legally be used to change the document, he adds.

Both resolutions sat well down on the House’s 3rd Reading Calendar, and so were days away from consideration – more days of email lobbying by the conservative groups.

So, GOP House members were so upset being lobbied so hard by the conservative groups they considered lifting HJR7 and HJR14 to the top of the calendar, and so debate and vote on them quickly.

Maybe they would pass, maybe they wouldn’t, one House Republican told UtahPolicy.

“I just want the emails to stop, one way or the other,” he added.

So that is what they did – put HJR14 and HJR13 to the top of the calendar for debate.

But they only debated and voted on HJR14 – which they ultimately defeated in a 34-38 vote – with some of the best heartfelt speeches of this session. You can hear the debate here.

HJR7 faces a similar close vote when the House next takes up House bills.

If two-thirds of the states notify Congress they support a convention of the states, Congress must call such a meeting. Only subjects specifically approved by a majority of the state legislatures could be discussed, supporters say.

Any amendment passed there would have to be ratified by three-fourths of state legislatures before the U.S. Constitution would be so amended.

There has never been a convention of the states, although Congress and state legislatures have amended the Constitution a number of times, including freeing the slaves and giving women the right to vote.

“Does anyone really believe that three-fourths of the legislatures” would ratify anything done by a “runaway” convention of the states – taking away the Bill of Rights or other constitutionally-protected basic American rights? Asks Ivroy. Of course not, is his answer, and is also his answer to the conservative groups who are opposing HJR7 and HJR14.

But Ivory couldn’t convince most of his colleagues, several of whom said they were too worried about writing a “blank check” to a convention of the states, and that as bad as the federal government is today, they fear an Article 5 convention more.